I sometimes wish it were all different; most late-onset cooks do. If only my mother had taught me to boil and bake all those years ago . . .Apart from anything else, I wouldn’t be so pathetically needy of praise nowadays. As the front door closes on the last departing guest, I feel a habitual whine rising to my lips: ‘I overdid the lamb/beef/whatever.’ By which I mean: ‘I didn’t, did I, and if I did it doesn’t matter, does it?’ Mostly I get the contradiction I crave; occasionally a reminder of the house rule that after the age of twenty-five you aren’t allowed to blame your parents for anything. Indeed, you’re even allowed to forgive them. So, OK, Dad, those beetroot sandwiches: you know, they were fine, quite tasty, and – well – really original. I couldn’t have made them better myself.